A Story of Impact
Despite everything I wanted to share a VERY special moment I had during 2020 - May 24 to be exact. Let’s rewind back to 2005 (yes, 2005) when I was just 8 years old. I was one of the most shy kids you would have ever met - shaking when ordering at a restaurant, making sure to finish my lunch at school quickly so that I could go back into the classroom with the teacher and not encounter other kids who could potentially be mean or make fun of me, only becoming my complete silly self around my one best friend and my close family.
I decided I wanted to finally break out of this shell and the only way I knew how to do that was by auditioning for a
community summer drama camp - yes, you heard that right, going from 0 to 100 real quick. The camp would last two weeks and on the final day everyone would perform the play we had rehearsed for several hours a day. This year the play was Beauty and the Beast. The audition consisted of singing “Beauty and the Beast” (ok...can we take a second?! that song is IMPOSSIBLE lol!)
Mind you I was only 8 at this time and the camp was meant for 7-14 year olds, so I was definitely on the younger side. Most of the other campers were older, some almost twice my age. I vividly remember watching them so intensely, taking mental
note of how they acted in rehearsal and how they were outside of rehearsal - when we would play improv games, sketch costume designs, take headshots.
There was one girl who my innocent child heart was drawn to the most - her name was Sarah and she was 12 years old at the time. She was everything I wanted to be when I grew up and in that moment - confident, outgoing, mature, bubbly, a leader, strongly opinionated, nurturing, beautiful, and above all - kind. Kind to everyone there - especially me. I could tell she knew I was shy and insecure - and naturally every interaction with her I observed and took to heart. I loved seeing someone older than me that was such a role model of who I wanted to be when I grew up. I admired how much she could talk without ever feeling like she needed to stop (lol, I wasn’t sure how to word this, but essentially I am saying that I loved that she would talk to anyone and everyone and never feel as though she was being annoying or rude - which she never was of course).
Everyday, I would come home from camp and tell my mom about the girl who played Gaston (Gaston, the villain in Beauty and the Beast - bless her heart for taking on that role and being so ok with it!). “Mom, how can I be like Sarah and be so pretty and nice and outgoing? I wish I wasn’t shy.” I would say that in some form or another multiple times during this two week camp. Come the day of the play I was very sad - knowing I probably would never see this person again who had such an impact on me. Knowing I probably could never even tell her about this.
But then the next week rolled around and there she was, at the same drama camp but this time for The Lion King - another two week drama camp. Fun story, for ice breakers, every camper there had to say one thing they liked to do. Me, being so desperate to break out of my shell, borrows my cousin’s tee shirt that said “Talking is my favorite subject” and then told everyone that I liked to talk. But I couldn’t fool anyone - later that day one of the girls came up to me and said “you don’t seem to like to talk that much.” All I could do was chuckle. I was caught off guard but she was right.
During this camp, I actually had to get surgery for a cyst on my finger so I missed a couple days of the camp. You want to know who would make sure I was taken care of? Sarah. You want to know who would continuously tell me how cute I was despite my feeling so low with this big old cast on my finger? Sarah. You want to know who would make sure to open the doors for me backstage when I couldn’t open them myself? You get the idea.
By this time, it had been four weeks and my mom has to find a way to thank Sarah’s parents for raising such a kind daughter. On the last day of the camp when we performed Lion King, my mom went to every family in the audience asking if they were Sarah’s parents. She finally found them to thank them. Her mom said to mine “oh, ya, she’s talked about Eva, she says she’s so cute.” That made me happy. But again, I knew I would never have the courage to directly tell this girl how much of an impact she had on me. I was still too shy. I couldn’t let someone know that they were the reason I was finally coming into my own and gaining a bit of confidence. I had to live with the fact that I would not see this person again unless by some miracle they did more summer drama camps next year like me.
2006 - Chicken Little drama camp - no Sarah.
2007 - Peter Pan drama camp - no Sarah.
2008 - Little Mermaid drama camp - no Sarah.
I was having to be ok with the fact that this person would never really know that because of them, I spoke up in class. I spoke LOUDLY. I PROJECTED. I even played Tinker Bell in 2007 because the drama camp owners could see something come out of me. I wasn’t that tiny 8 year old shy girl anymore.
Years went by and of course I would still think of Sarah from time to time - wondering what she had been up to, accepting that I would never know. It was Easter of 2017 when I was going through my memory boxes and I found the program for Beauty and the Beast. I found her full name, Sarah Churchill, and spent two hours trying to find her on social media - Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, heck even tryin to look up MySpace profiles. Nothing. Not even for her sister who was also in the camp.
Every few months I would check back - thinking maybe she got married and had a different last name now. I even went through other people’s profiles from the camp to see if they had any friends named Sarah. They did, but it wasn’t the right Sarah. It stung, a lot - I couldn’t think of not finding a way to tell someone the impact they had on my life and then having no idea. November 2018 - another time when I spent a couple hours searching. Facebook probably thought I was some bot, oops. At this point I had to give it up and go back to accepting the fact that while she did help me so much overcome my shyness, it wasn’t enough to directly tell her this.
May 24, 2020. I’m back home in San Diego, going through old DVDS when I came across Beauty and the Beast. I thought “heck, let’s give it one more try.” I searched Facebook and a profile popped up and I instantly recognized that bright brown hair but I knew I couldn’t get my hopes up. I clicked on the profile, zoomed in on the picture, looked through a few more and knew it had to be her. I had to friend request her and message her “hey this is crazy but by any chance at all did you do theater in San Diego?” By this time it was 1 am and I had to get some rest.
9 am the next morning - I get a reply. It was her - it was the 12 year old girl who I looked up to so much 15 years ago. I started bawling and shaking, feeling like there is no way this is happening right now. How did I just connect with someone who probablt doesn’t even remember my name but whose name I will remmeber for the rest of my life? I had a chance to pour my heart out over messenger with everything I had wanted to say 15 years ago - thank you for believing in me, thank you for your sweet compliments, thank you for your selflessness, thank you for being like a big protective older sister to me.
Sarah was so thrilled that I shared with her the impact her kindness had on me. And I was and am sothrilled that the universe gave me the gift of being able to finally tell her 15 years later - when I could be 100% vulnerable and open with her. She told me that she didn’t remember a lot from her childhood, and she was so thankful that I was able to offer her a glimpse into the past. To me, it was as if we had just picked up exactly where we were 15 years ago - of course talking about more than being cute, we talked about love, life, kindness, divinity - all the topics that keep us tossing and turning at night.
Present day - Jan 1,2020. I wanted to share this on a whim because I didn’t realize until I deeply reflected how powerful this story could be for someone else reading it. To all the Evas out there, don’t wait to tell someone that they had an impact on you - thankfulness and gratitude is free, sprinkle that stuff everywhere. To all the Evas out there, don’t give up on finding a way to thank someone even if it is a decade and a half later. Keep checking in with yourself and see if there is a way to reach them. I gave up and then decided to try once more and that try was the magic one. To all the Sarahs out there, never under estimate the power your words and good deeds have on those who look up to you. They might not ever have the courage to tell you this to your face, but take comfort in knowing that your impact on them will last forever.